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January 14, 2008

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gordon

So a lot of the numbers bandied about by economists and others discussing issues like growth and poverty are pretty shaky. Does this surprise anybody?

Nicholas Shaxson

One area where more global public goods are required is in the field of tax data and tax analysis. There's plenty of useful info for OECD countries but relatively little for poor countries (try www.developmentdata.org, for example - you'll see that while the "aid" section contains plenty of material, "tax" is absent). Which seems strange, given that tax, not aid, is the most sustainable (and biggest) form of development finance. Read Trevor Manuel's latest speech on tax on January 10th (http://www.treasury.gov.za/comm_media/speeches/2008/2008011001.pdf)
to see why tax data is so important. Here's one of many quotes from him:
"It is a contradiction to support increased development assistance, yet turn a blind eye to actions by multinationals and others that undermine the tax base of a developing country." This whole area: transfer (mis-)pricing; tax avoidance and evasion (legal and illegal); etc is woefully under-studied and it's time this changed.

Nicholas Shaxson

Following my earlier comment referring to Trevor Manuel, I should have stressed that it is especially the international dimensions of taxation that are so poorly analysed. Manuel again: "Our tax systems have essentially been designed for sovereign states. The choices available to countries are frequently an expression of their state of development. This is an area where the legitimate, rational behaviour of a single country can do considerable damage to the global economy or to specific countries." Read his whole speech: it's worth it. (There's a shorter summary of highlights from the speech here: http://taxjustice.blogspot.com/2008/01/well-said-trevor-manuel.html)

Tax is not only the most sustainable (and biggest) source of finance for development, as already noted, but lines of accountability are right too: from ruler to citizen, rather than from ruler to aid donor. And if we're talking about global public goods, it's not only better data that are needed, but global co-operation on tax. Manuel again: "The OECD has led the way in fostering partnerships between nations in response to many of these global public goods issues. These partnerships must be applauded but they must be extended to poorer countries who are often the victims of organised efforts to undermine their tax bases."

Action on this could have benefits for poor countries far larger than what might be possible with aid. Civil society, aid agencies, and many others seem to be asleep on this. Why?

Frank

One reason why the World Bank takes so long to revise numbers is that its Data Group no longer does data: it does software development. This is but a natural response to incentives. Managers are more impressed by a fancy new data interfaces than by a revision to Yemen's 1992 government investment expenditure, say, so most of their time is spent designing software for data storage, access and analysis. Unfortunately, the Data Group does not have a comparative advantage in software development, as any user of WDI on-line can attest. (Indeed, bureaucracies seldom make good consumer products.) The Bank should therefore make it a priority to hire more statisticians and less programmers; align incentives adequately, by for example inviting a consortium of data users to evaluate the Data Group activities; and make its data accessible for free in a simple format.

tolga

Could anybody please explain to me why the Indian GDP per capita falls when the value of rupee increases vis-a-vis the dollar(from 1$=44 rupees to 1$=14,7 rupees) after the adjustments?

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